The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
3 1/2 stars.
The premise of this novel is terrific: the story of one summer in the life of silent film star Louise Brooks and her chaperone, Cora. Cora is a likeable and compelling character. An orphan who has made a life for herself in Wichita, she is seeking answers to the questions of her parentage and early years and embraces an opportunity to return to New York City as a chaperone to a fifteen year old Louise Brooks who has been invited to study dance there for the summer.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story of the summer these two very different women spent together -- Cora seeking her past, and Louise chasing her future. Moriarty does a fabulous job of rendering these two characters and painting New York City in the twenties; I was absolutely captivated by both the characters and the setting.
However, I felt like narrative didn't have anywhere to go after this pivotal summer, and Moriarty winds up leading us through the subsequent years in these women's lives at breakneck speed, summarizing the consequences of this turning point in each of their lives in a way that made me feel distanced from each of them. I think Moriarty strives to make this a story about Cora's search for identity, but ultimately the ending feels too pat, and a bit contrived.
Still, the prose is lovely and the characters and setting are magical at times. Definitely worth the read.